Feature Article of Sunday, 29 May 2011
Columnist: Mensah, Nana Akyea
by Nana Akyea Mensah, The Odikro.
Is Rawlings now complaining Nkrumahists want to take his NDC from under his
feet? Who took what from under whose feet? The struggle Ghanaians and the
rest of Africa are engaged in today is not about personalities nor any
body's feet for that matter! This is a struggle which involve ideas,
concepts and strategies that help us to identify, defend and advance our
interests as a people. Among the babel of ideas for the emancipation of
Africans from the stranglehold of imperialism and their local compradore
bourgeoisie, Nkrumah's about this struggle is a 'nonpariel'! Nkrumah was by
quantum levels a far-sighted leader in a class of his own. And I feel angry
at the insulting self-comparison Rawlings has been making with himself and
An admirable thing about Nkrumah was that he was always learning. Nkrumah
even learned from his own mistakes and took the trouble to write extensively
in exile to pass on the lessons from the experience of struggle. It takes a
buffoon of the likes of Rawlings even to think about comparing himself with
Kwame Nkrumah. So, for me, it is therefore good news that Rawlings is
complaining. It is about time the chickens come back home to roost. Rawlings
has sponged upon Nkrumahism for far too long! It is also about time someone
gave him a little talk on this subject. I immensely enjoyed reading Comrade
Kwesi Adu's recent article on the same subject: "Rawlings: In Search Of
Enemies And Traitors, The Roll
Here is another take on that same utterly exasperating subject matter. I
hope this would not be the end. And that Ghanaians would once again rise up
to oppose him in even greater numbers than when they hailed him on June 4,
1979. Has this man, all of a sudden, noticed that there are Nkrumahists in
the NDC? If Rawlings wants to reduce the struggle between him and his wife,
against President Mills as a choice between Nkrumahists and Rawlingstas, I
thank God I supported President Mills against Akufo-Addo! I thank God that
those Nkrumahists that Rawlings have been fooling all along, can now say,
"We are Back!"
"I am back! I am back! I am back! I am back!!!" - Rawlings, Friday, 12
December 12, 2008.
In fact, this happened publicly in the presence of the diplomatic community.
At a function organised by the Japanese Ambassador to Ghana, attended by
several diplomats and Ghanaian dignitaries. The NDC had not even won the
elections yet. I was very surprised to read on ModernGhana: "I am back!!!
Rawlings says to Diplomats, as he anticipates Mills
Source: The Statesman - The Statesman, Ghana Elections | Mon, 15 Dec 2008.
The source is dubious, admitted with much pleasure, but the information
appears verifiable and credible enough to me. This was even before the
December 28 presidential run-off. The excitement of Rawlings was as palpable
as it was unusual. "I am back! I am back!" he boomed into the hall upon his
arrival, seeking maximum attention to himself. And he never stopped until he
was gone, interrupting decent conversations with "I am back! I am back!" It
always came in pairs or more. He never said it once. He had to repeat it ad
nausaem. "I am back! I am back!" until he barked off.
Of course, Rawlings could be forgiven if he was drunk. Considering the mood
of festivity in the air at the time, that the mere glimpse of returning to
power gave, especially after eight good years on the hard "Opposition
bench", it was even normal and expected that his excellency would be full of
wine or something more potent. However, it looks like Rawlings was in for a
very rude shock if those were his dreams. The contradiction was there right
from the beginning, based upon his own personal expectations and the reasons
why he was so excitedly screaming into the ears of the diplomats, "I am
back! I am back! I am back!"
Rawlings said nothing intelligible or anything newsworthy, other than "I am
back! I am back!" And so it was, that on the next day, quite naturally, this
was his only quote in the news. To be frank, I found that odd and
vicariously embarrassing not just for our democracy and its image, but at
how petty this Rawlings could be! Why particularly "I am back! I am back!"?
This is, without a doubt, a pre-occupation that speaks volumes, most
especially at the time of celebrating an imminent victory of a Presidential
race in which he was no longer the flag-bearer!
So, why "I am back! I am back!"?
I like this question. I think the answer to that might explain the reason
why we see Rawlings besides himself with excitement and joy, and how quickly
this transformed into bitterness. Apparently infallible and all-knowing
Rawlings had realized a deeply grievous mistake on his part! So much for
Rawlings' own sense of judgement after single-handedly "imposing" Atta-Mills
as the NDC Presidential candidate! Now, we know he was fooling nobody other
than himself! What does that tell us of Rawlings' own sense of judgement, if
after two decades in power, he booms with such joy and relish only to scream
like a baby, within a fortnight, and then turn around to come and tell
us that he actually got his most important political appointment decision
The question to answer first though remains why "I am back! I am back I am
back! I am back!!"? I think this is important because it is only through
this approach that we could gain some insight into how and why Mr. Rawlings
has become such a fierce and ferocious adversary of the President, and just
how his own wife, Nana Konadu Agyemang-Rawlings fits into what, for the want
of a better word, I simply call 'the "I am back! I am back!!" syndrome.'
Let's even assume that he was very drunk when he was making those
statements, or much more probably, high on marijuana. I do not believe in
the rumours that he sniffs coke, so let's rule that out. This leaves us with
alcohol and his favourite leaves. But even assuming that he was drunk or
stone high, why "I am back! I am back!" and not "We are back" for example?
After all it is his party which was winning but the President was clearly a
As a party chairman, Rawlings could have done better, and it would have been
more fitting and appropriate to rally the party on with a good bellow: "We
are back!' That slip of tongue, if ever it was one, irrespective of the
inducing agent, was very revealing. And I think it holds the key to the
psychological framework that has triggered his insane and intense hatred of
President Mills. In the next part of this article, I want to explain why I
think that President Mills has got nothing to do with it. Rawlings hates him
simply because he is on the way to his quest for power, all he wanted was a
pawn, not a President who thinks and has a conscience of his own. And that
complement my answer to the question.
"Hand over to whom?"
In 1982, during the heat of the so-called 31st December Revolution, Rawlings
made his first appearance at the Great Hall of the University of Science and
Technology, now correctly called the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and
Technology, Kumasi. It was to be a memorable occasion. After rumbling and
making no sense for about an hour, came question time. A good friend of mine
during the students "forced task" period, and a personal hero, now Dr. Joe
Atta-Mensah, then a young student in his twenties, mounted the podium to
pose the famous question:
"Mr. Chairman, I want to know, and please, let me know, one, when are you
going to lift the curfew? And two, when are you going to hand over?"
Atta-Mensah does not even smile at his own jokes, so you could imagine his
serious face as he asked his question.
All hell broke loose! The question immediately wiped off the silly grin
loitering on Rawlings face, as Atta-Mensah mounted the podium to ask his
question. The PDC cadres moved quickly to restrain young Atta-Mensah from
asking a third one, whilst others tried to prevent Rawlings and pleaded with
him not to answer the question. But the harm had been done to what was
billed to be a "conscientization" rally, for Mr Atta-Mensah got a standing
ovation from the student body.
Finally, after some calm had been restored and Joe Atta-Mensah had managed
to take to his heels to avoid instant lynching, by the PDC and security
details, Rawlings cleared his throat to answer the question:
"Hand over to whom? That would be the return of the devil himself!"
Only the PDC cadres cheered whilst the general student body booed, and Joe
Atta-Mensah became immortalised as a national hero for democracy, even
though he had to flee the country immediately for his life, for just asking
that question, and to complete his education in Canada. At least, it was
thanks to this question that we got the early warning signals about the kind
of beast we have in town.
And so it was, that throughout the rule of the PNDC, anyone who would call
for the return to constitutional rule would be tagged "enemy of the
revolution" with dire consequences to their persons. So, it is a little bit
of an under-statement to simply state that Rawlings had no intention of
handing over power and cede to a democratic form of governance. He had to be
ejected from office under intense national and international pressure.
Little wonder that he is scheming to come back! He is still not convinced
that it is game-over.
It was not an easy struggle to get Rawlings to cede to the demands of
Ghana's pro-democracy forces and to return the country to constitutional
rule. It was equally not easy to get Rawlings to concede defeat to the NPP,
had it not been the fact that his own flag-bearer was a gracious gentleman
who would prefer to be known as "Asomdweehene". NDC Presidential candidate,
Professor John Evans Atta-Mills conceded defeat to the chagrin of Mr. Jerry
John Rawlings! It is thus against such a background that one should
understand the basis of the "I am back! I am back!" syndrome, as nothing
other than an inordinate and utterly disgusting lust for power.
"Traitor!", "Team B!", and "Go slow!"
Now, let's fast-forward to January 2011. A few weeks after the famous "I am
back! I am back!" outbursts, President Atta-Mills did something that
literally tingled violently in Rawlings' tympanic membranes. President Mills
had wasted no time at all in making it clear to Rawlings that he was his own
man, and would not be pushed around by anybody, not even Rawlings! The first
issue on the table was about ministerial appointments. President Mills
clearly had some ideas of his own but preferred to follow the laid down
procedure. Rawlings did not only have a definitive list, but a comprehensive
list of the entire cabinet to be appointed for the newly-elected Mills
Administration. And contrary to his expectations, Atta-Mills, following the
laid down procedure, would only pick and choose from the Rawlings list and
not accept it hook, line, and sinker!
For the Rawlingses that was an unpardonable hubris. Thus an understandable
reading into the "I am back! I am back" declarations of Rawlings translates
into an expectation on his part to run the country by remote control.
Indeed, there were rumours that he expected to literally make political
appointments with simple SMS text messages to the President on his mobile
phone! Thus for Rawlings, who left power reluctantly as a dictator, "I am
back! I am back!" takes an ominous and familiar meaning. And the
democratically elected Professor of law did very well to put this ignorant
upstart who could not even pass his General Certificate of Examination, "O"
Level, in his proper place!
If you want to see how an empty head that is full of himself looks like,
never miss the opportunity to observe this man carefully whenever the
occasion presents itself. Attention, if you are the expressive type, I
recommend that you do so safely from a television screen. He can read your
thoughts from the way you smile at him and react impulsively. And this could
be dangerous. He once threw a heavy ashtray which narrowly missed the head
of Professor Mawusi Dake, simply because he did not like the smile on his
So you can imagine the level of punishment Rawlings would have reserved for
"the mortuary man", if he could have his way! That simply reminds me of the
Ayatollah Khomeni fatwa on Salmon Rushdie: "He deserves, at the very
minimum, a sentence of death"! It gives me shivers in the spine as my mind
feebly wonders what the maximum sentence would look like. Rawlings, of
course, did not use so many words. He used the code word: "traitor"! That
was sufficient. Very few people lived to see the light of day with such a
label, when Rawlings was the "monarch" of all he could survey in the heydays
of the PNDC.
As for the ministers, as soon as the official list was published, Rawlings
simply cross-checked with his own list, the "Team A", so those on the
official list automatically became "Team B"! It is actually amazing how the
Rawlingses replaced the opposition NPP to become the principal adversaries
of the President at the very beginning of the Mills Administration over the
issue of appointments. Even Akufo-Addo publicly chose not to criticize the
President during his first hundred days in office. This would not be the
case with the Rawlingses, who wanted the immediate imprisonment of all NPP
officials for corruption, never mind the evidence!
Mills only fault was that he needed the evidence to prove the case in a
court of law. Sooner than later, he would be nicknamed "Go slow" for not
moving fast enough to jail those "corrupt politicians" in the NPP. To my
eternal shock and amazement, I saw NPP supporters applauding Rawlings for
calling President Mills "Go slow" because the President was insisting on the
rule of the law and would not wrongfully jail them! It was a form of
suicidal stupidity that made me feel very sad indeed for the future of our
democracy, and the quality of the grey matter in the heads of some of these
Now, Listen, You "Greedy Bastard", "We are back"!!!
There is something about "greedy bastards" that I find very curious,
especially coming from the lips Rawlings. This is because in several
interviews, Rawlings himself had made it clear that he is indeed a bastard
whose Scottish father, Mr. John, did not even want to see for just an
instant. He did not even want telephone calls from him! He says so himself,
so we all know he is a bastard in the most classical sense of the word.
As for being greedy, what do you say of a poor Flight Lieutenant, who drinks
"apio" on credit, eats "yore ke gari" on credit, smokes marijuana on credit,
who suddenly finds himself with a free house, free booze, free Koforidua
weeds (and sometimes from Tudu), free 555 State Express cigarettes, free
car, free petrol, free driver, free eggs, and free akple and free okro soup
with goat or cat meat as an option? And at the end of the month, a very fat
salary on top of all that? if such a person does not want to relinquish
power after misruling the country for nineteen good years, who do you think
is the greedy bastard here? After killing people far less corrupt than
himself, for being corrupt? How would you call such a genuine bastard, if
not "a minimum" appellation of "a very greedy bastard indeed"?
The strange thing about all this insatiable desire for power is that the
struggle is always about Rawlings. It is not that he has anything special to
offer the nation. Rawlings is ever ready to try anything to get to power, or
to stay in power, just for the sake of power. He could not even be bothered
about an ideological orientation. Rawlings was ready to try everything from
the most rabid of neo-liberal economic policies such as structural
adjustment and deregulation to undigested revanchist revolutionary rhetoric.
Rawlings is a corrupt person who never stops complaining about corruption, a
vote rigger who never stops complaining about vote rigging, a coup plotter
who never stops complaining of coup plotters, a dictator who never stops
complaining of dictatorship, a greedy bastard who never stops complaining of
greedy bastards, and a murderer who never stops complaining of murderers! He
is the only known Ghanaian with the greatest amount of Ghanaian blood on his
hands than any individual in the entire history of the Ghanaian people! He
has more blood of innocent Ghanaians on his hands than the average
armed-robber! He surpasses the atrocities of slave traders centuries before!
Yet, after a brutal misrule over this country for nineteen years, he wants
his wife to be our President, and roam around again, throwing his pompous
weight about, half stoned, half sane, as Ghana's First Gentleman, instead of
spending time in prison for his heinous crimes!
I remember meeting one of the soldiers who took part in the operation to
free Rawlings from the MI guardroom in the early hours of Monday, June 4,
1979 and transported him to the Achimota Forest where they had established a
Command Post. It was at the Passport Office which had just then been moved
to the Airport Residential Area, as a result of a fire outbreak in the old
passport office. I met a fellow student-leader there, who was with him and
he recognized me. This colleague introduced to him as a student leader
fiercely opposed to the PNDC dictatorship. He gave me a hug and gave his
name orally as "Bezenkyi". It was and not spelt to me, nor written down, so
I wonder if I have the spelling right. He added however, that "Bezenkyi"
means "black blood" in Hausa. (I wish a Hausa-speaking reader would be kind
enough to correct the spelling for me!) I also learnt that he had just been
released from prison where he underwent severe torture.
Bezenkyi told me he had been tortured in prison and he had his fingers and
his skin to prove it. His skin was peeling off, and his fingers had been
broken. He could not move them. He told me they did that to him because they
wanted to make sure he could not handle a gun and shoot with it any more.
But with a swing of his arm, with his broken fingers cupped together like a
claw, he said to me, "I can still throw grenades!" That was the only time he
smiled. One thing he told me, that made me chuckle, was that Rawlings did
not know those who were sent to liberate him beforehand, they arrived
unexpectedly and so it must have taken him by surprise and he mistook them
for the authorities who had ordered for his execution, so early in the
It should not be forgotten that Rawlings' revendez-vous with death had been
poignantly brought home to him by no other person than General Ollesegun
Obassanjo, who on a state visit to Ghana, had asked to see him on Friday,
1st June 1979, three days before the June 4 operation. Obassanjo had
reportedly told Rawlings upon seeing him, in the pidgin English, "Ibi [Is
it] you this fiangle [tiny] boy who dey cause trouble for your contrey
[country]? Like you dey for my contrey, Satorday, [Saturday] Satorday self,
no go reach you!" [you would be dead before Saturday!] Thus it was that
when his liberators broke into the guardroom, a surprised and scared
Rawlings clutched to the bars of the guardroom and would not allow himself
to be taken away!
"I want to see my mother before I die!" Rawlings screamed. "I want to see my
mother before I die!" He was crying hysterically like a baby, and actually
pissed in his trousers like a baby. The noise he was making could have
jeopardized the entire operation and endangered the lives of his liberators,
so he was given some dirty slaps to shut up, as it was calmly explained to
him that they were there to liberate him. The part of the piss in the
trousers and the courage in the eyes of Bezenkyi was very contrasting. He
was talking freely knowing very well that he was being followed by the BNI.
He said when they even went to liberate Rawlings, he had been so scared that
Rawlings pissed in his trousers. In fact, I still remember the way Bezenkyi
narrated this part of the story:
"He even piss for trouser!", he said, still with an angry face.
It was just too difficult for me to keep myself from laughing as a sign of
respect for his feelings, but I could not help laughing. I honestly did not
want to laugh, at least, not at that time, but it was far too much more than
my endurance level! I do regret that and I feel sorry about that. Please
forgive my sinful sense of humour! I perfectly sympathize with Bezenkyi and
the other Nkrumahists who freed Rawlings from the guardroom, most of whom
were later intimidated to flee the land and go into exile, imprisoned,
tortured, or simply killed.
The events that political analysts and historians refer to as the June 4
Uprising is a culmination of several historical processes which even
pre-date Kwame Nkrumah and Wallace Johnson, even though these have been very
instrumental in the development of working class consciousness among the
mass of our population and mass agitations and popular struggle already had
their symbols such as the Sekondi Railway workers' "Bottom Tree". Rawlings
hi-jacked this struggle and bastardised it just for his own personal
aggrandisement. This is my thesis.
This is not to say that I did not support Rawlings on June 4. I did. I would
have been happy to have been a part of the team to liberate a man who is
also fighting against military corruption which had become so obvious. I
would not have risked my life just for Rawlings, but help to end the
suffering of an overwhelming majority of Ghanaians, under an unelected,
corrupt, and irresponsible military dictatorship, who cared less about the
future of the country and the conditions under which people were living. I
therefore salute all those who went and liberated him from prison. How could
they have possibly known that they were making a mistake?
Rawlings is a political mistake that only Nkrumahists who helped him to
power can correct, and I am happy that it is no person than Rawlings himself
who is blaming Nkrumahists for trying to correct their own mistake! After so
many years of betrayal, what does he expect? I salute all those Nkrumahists
within the NDC who are keen on correcting this mistake! It makes the NDC
very attractive and tempting to join; because of Rawlings, I have never
found the NDC to be an option for me. He once angrily removed a badge with
Nkrumah's head embossed on it, from the chest of Mr. Kojo Eshun, who used to
run the Nsamankow Press, at North Kaneshi, Accra, and that was the last
straw for me, even though he was no such great fan even much earlier than
that for other mischiefs.
Nkrumahists in the NDC must tell the Rawlingstas that “Nkrumahists can also
be Ababio! You are not the only Ababio in town. We are asking you to go and
come no more!” If President Mills wins this contest, I might officially join
NDC myself. And I wish someone would tell Bezenkyi to do the same if he is
still alive, so that together, we can go and tell Rawlings: "JJ, We are
back! You can piss for trouser"!
*Forward Ever! Backwards Never!!!*
*Nana Akyea Mensah, The Odikro*